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What happened to Newt?

In May, House Speaker Newt Gingrich announced the creation of a
Watergate-style special committee to investigate charges that President
Clinton placed America’s security in jeopardy in return for illegal
Chinese campaign contributions. A week later, Gingrich intensified the

“What you have lived through for two and a half years is the most
systematic, deliberate obstruction of justice cover-up and effort to
avoid the truth we have ever seen in American history,” he said. “The
time has come to say to the president, ‘Quit undermining the law in the
United States. Turn over the evidence.'”

Gingrich said we should stop referring to the Clinton “scandals” and
start referring to them as the Clinton “crimes.” To underscore his
seriousness, he said, henceforth, “I will never again, as long as I am
speaker, make a speech without commenting on this topic.”

And that was the last time anyone heard Gingrich comment on the

The Republicans, in fact, seem incapable of maintaining a sustained,
coherent and focused attack on the Clinton crimes and cover-ups. Last
week, for example, a day after Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott
blistered Clinton, Gingrich backpedaled.

In an apparently new concept in election-year campaigning, Gingrich
announced that House Republican leaders would be toning down the
anti-Clinton rhetoric and adopting “a calm position.”

“We should let him do his job,” Gingrich said of the president.

Let him do his job. Hmmmmm.

But wait, it gets worse. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry
Hyde was perhaps the master of self-flagellation.

“We have escalated charges and countercharges and criticism and
evaluations of motives based on darned little hard evidence,” he said.
“It confuses people. They believe it.”

Darned little evidence. Hmmmmm.

“I don’t know what the hell (Starr’s) going to say, and until we have
those facts, I think it would be prudent to hold fire,” said
Appropriations Committee Chairman Bob Livingston. “We don’t do ourselves
a service by commenting on information we don’t have.”

Information we don’t have. Hmmmmm.

Who do these guys think they have been, Torquemada the Inquisitor?
All they’ve done as far as I’ve seen — save that one glorious,
momentary outburst by Gingrich — has been to throw creampuffs at
Clinton. They’ve permitted Kenneth Starr to do the job they are
empowered to do. They’ve watched the polls rather than gather the facts
and press the charges. They’ve allowed Clinton to violate the
Constitution and, thus, all of our sacred rights. And now, it’s
evidently going to get worse. Their complicity in the Clinton crimes is
going to deepen.

I am seeing an unprecedented level of anger at the Republican
grass roots. The precinct walkers and GOP activists are ready to take a
walk right out of the party. If I were a part of the House or Senate
leadership, I would be more worried about offending my right flank, my
base, my constituency, than I would be about offending Bill Clinton and
his supporters. The Republicans have been their own worst enemy since
taking power in the Congress. They are on the verge of giving that power
back after four years of abdication of authority and agenda-less drift.

You would think that an election year represents the perfect
opportunity for politicians to air their grievances with political
opponents. Since when is an approaching vote a time to tone down the
rhetoric and play pattycake with those committing high crimes and

Just a few days ago, China warned Clinton in no uncertain terms that
he better rein in Congress and make them shut up with regard to
criticism of Beijing and its policies. It seemed like an absurdly
ludicrous plea by a Chinese regime out of touch with the way American
politics work. After all, how could the president get the Congress to
shut up? Maybe it’s not so stupid, after all. Maybe the joke’s on us.
Maybe we don’t even know who’s pulling the strings above these pathetic